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PROVIDENCE -- The state retirement system is suing Facebook and its co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg, alleging that the social media giant and its leaders breached their financial duties in connection with the collection of private data of millions of users.
“As Treasurer, my job is to stand up for the financial wellbeing of all Rhode Islanders, including the teachers, first responders and other community servants who depend on the Rhode Island pension fund for their retirement security,” General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said in a news release announcing the lawsuit filed by the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island. "When Facebook leaders improperly allowed user data to fall into the hands of bad actors trying to influence elections in support of Donald Trump and others, they not only put our democratic system of government at risk, they also put shareholder capital at risk.”
Facebook user data was obtained by British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in the years leading up to the 2016 election without users’ consent and was used to push for Donald Trump’s election as president as well as Ted Cruz’s run for Senate, and the pro-Brexit movement.
Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission for the breach, a significant fine that Magaziner alleges “materially” impacted the value of Facebook stock and harmed Facebook shareholders, including the state retirement system. The system currently holds 151,533 shares of Facebook.
The lawsuit charges that the breaches of fiduciary duty caused significant damage to Facebook and continue to impair long-term shareholder value, according to Magaziner’s office. It details, too, allegations against certain Facebook board of directors members and top executives for failing to ensure that Facebook complied with privacy laws and regulations and a prior consent agreement with the FTC. The lawsuit also names Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and members of the board of directors as defendants.
The lawsuit was filed in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware. A public version of the complaint, with redactions of confidential information, is expected to be filed this August 6th.
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